Fort Eden – Chapter 3

Warpers by Chris Kluwe and Edwin McRae

 

Field Report to Falcon’s Hall, Hamburg, Germany

Falconer Luc Barbier

October 5th, 1867

Port Fairweather, New Zealand

 

Encountered a new species of Culler today. I’ve decided to name the aforementioned beast a “Warper,” owing to its habit of warping the body of its host into a form more suitable to the destruction of life and limb to those unfortunate enough to cross its path. The afflicted creature that led to this entry began its existence as a brushtail possum, genus trichosurus vulpecula, native to New South Wales, but this particular specimen bore as much relation to its common brethren as I do to a chimpanzee.

A normal possum that one would expect to encounter measures barely half a meter from tail to nose, but the animal I had the misfortune of meeting was near a meter long, and possessed of a tail resembling the jagged teeth of a hacksaw, its vertebrae twisted into razor sharp spines. The wretched beast leapt down from an overhanging branch straight onto my unfortunate horse’s neck, Esperer, a lovely natured chestnut mare. Before I could do so much as draw my pistol, the damned thing had opened her neck clear to the bone by wrapping its tail around her and constricting.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to leap from the saddle during poor Esperer’s demise, else I fear I would have found myself pinned underneath her bulk and at the mercy of the enthralled possum’s fifteen centimeter claws. It seems a common feature of the Warper is to enhance its host’s natural defences, often to a level unimaginable by those unfamiliar with the Culler threat.

Mourning the loss of my faithful mare, I nonetheless utilized the years of Falconer training afforded to me. As the Warper leaped through the air towards my face, I emptied three gold slugs into the beast with my Chamelot-Delvigne pistol. Quite a jump it was, measuring near three full meters, and had I not fired and then ducked away, the twisted thing would have landed square upon my brow.

Once again I am compelled to ruminate on the peculiar qualities of the Warper Culler, specifically its ability to temporarily enhance the speed, strength and offensive capabilities of common animals. I say ‘temporary,’ as these ‘enhancements’ tend to put so much strain on an animal’s physiology that they only live but a few months post-transfiguration. When their host is thus spent, the Warper Culler simply detaches itself from the carcass and goes in search of a new host. The discovery of this particular point of information cost me no small amount of money in rabbits. Please note the reimbursement form included in this envelope.

As far as anatomical structure goes, this nefarious little Culler has the dimensions and basic anatomy of an Ixodidae, a ‘Hard Tick,’ yet it differs from its mundane cousin in two quite remarkable ways, something I have discovered through a series of blood samples taken from ‘Thralls,’ the name I’ve given to the mammals, reptiles, and birds I’ve seen ‘enthralled’ by a Warper. These observations were garnered under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, of course.

Once the Warper punctures the skin of its victim and accesses the bloodstream, it then releases two chemicals that are quite diabolical in their utility. The first toxin takes control of the host’s instincts so that the Warper may manipulate the enslaved animal’s behaviours. It tends to favor territorial hostility, exacerbating aggression to quite disturbing levels. I suspect that it bears a similarity with the toxoplasma gondii that frequently affects mice, lessening their distrust of their feline predators.

The second toxin, if it can be believed, is even more nefarious than the first. It infiltrates the pituitary gland and activates bone and tissue growth in alarming proportions. Using the creature’s own endocrine system, the Warper transfigures the animal in a similar way that a potter might mould clay. The results are both miraculous in nature, and hideous in design.

The most striking transfiguration I have thus far witnessed is that of an Amazonian anaconda, turned quite literally into a multi-headed hydra that would have been far more at home in a Greek myth, each head capable of snapping at me independently. Thankfully, unlike its mythological counterpart, the creature’s heads did not grow back after decapitation. By comparison, my initial encounter with the possum that slaughtered my poor Esperer might well seem pedestrian, and I fear for my fellow Falconers who might also encounter such gigantic abominations.

During my recent months in Port Fairweather, I have noted a marked increase in Warper numbers and activity. I have written to the Falconer way station in New South Wales, requesting reinforcements, but have as yet received no response.

If Warper numbers continue to increase, I believe it is a strong indication that the Fairweather settlement’s expansion and resulting deforestation has not gone unnoticed. If this situation is not nipped in the bud, one way or another, New Zealand’s capital might find itself in a troubling predicament.

May the Archives find this information useful,

Luc Barbier, Officer of the Order of the Falcon

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